Writer. Reader. Reviewer. Resource Maven.

Sandee Brawarsky’s Spring Books Preview

In the current Jewish Week, Sandee Brawarsky previews a number of Jewish-themed titles coming to libraries and bookstores near you this spring. And there are a number of intriguing volumes forthcoming.

There will be new tomes from established names like Dara Horn, Amos Oz, and Aharon Appelfeld. A translation of Jonathan Littell’s prizewinning Les bienveillantes (“The Kindly Ones”). Something that’s absolutely going on my tbr list: Shulamit Lapid’s Valley of Strength, coming from the ever-reliable Toby Press. And plenty of nonfiction, too.

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Journalism/Jewish Literature Taglit-Birthright Israel Trip

It’s not often that I wish I were younger–life is just fine right now, thank you–but when I received an announcement from the Jewish Book Council about one particular opportunity, I wished I could be 18-26 again.

The Council is now working with Hillel to provide a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip focused on journalism and Jewish literature. This free trip is open to Jews who are 18-26 years old and have never been on a peer-group trip to Israel. Registration opens next week, and will be open until March 4.

If this trip appeals to you (or might appeal to someone you know who fits the eligibility criteria), click here for more information.

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Reminder: Jewish Fiction Writers’ Conference

Just a reminder that the Jewish Fiction Writers’ Conference scheduled for Sunday, March 15, 2009, at the 92nd Street Y in New York City is currently accepting early-bird registrations. But time for the discount is running out! You have until February 16 to save on the registration fee (it’s $115 until then, and $135 until March 9, when registration closes). Your conference registration will include a kosher breakfast and lunch.

And it will include the chance to attend numerous focused presentations—including the one I am having a lot of fun preparing. My session on “Publishing Your Jewish Short Stories” will include up-to-date information from all the magazine and journal editors who are so kindly responding to my inquiries at the moment. Plus lots of other guidance from someone who has managed to publish her share of Jewish-themed short fiction (in Lilith, Mississippi Review Online, TriQuarterly, and several others). Haven’t managed to publish a book-length collection, though, which is why I, personally, am eager to hear what the agent/editor types presenting that day will have to tell us.

For lots more information, and a downloadable brochure, click here. Hope to see you on March 15!

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From My Bookshelf: American Jewish Fiction, by Josh Lambert

You’ve seen me mention Josh Lambert on this blog before. I’m delighted to tell you that Josh’s new book, American Jewish Fiction, is now available. Go and get a copy!

Why? It’s not merely a matter of what Josh knows about his subject (which is, frankly, quite a lot). It’s also a matter of his excellent, engaging writing style. Epitomized in this e-mail he sent about the book’s release:

“First let me tell you a little about the book. It’s a handbook to American Jewish fiction: think Uris, Roth, Malamud, Bellow, Bashevis Singer, Potok, Ozick, Paley, Foer, and Friday, the Rabbi Slept Late, plus a whole lot of truly excellent writers you’ve never heard of. It’s sort of like a Zagat guide, except that there are no quantitative scores and I had to come up with all the snappy remarks myself. The book contains short reviews of 125 novels and short story collections published from 1867 to 2007, including lots of classics and many lost treasures, plus there’s an introduction that gives a broad overview of the development and contours of the field, and some useful appendices. The book aims to give you a good sense for the range and depth of what I believe is one of the stronger literary traditions of the 20th century. The best part is that you don’t even need to read the whole thing to tell me how much you like it. You can just flip through and see what catches your eye. And if you happen to have a deeper interest in American Jewish fiction–either as an enthusiastic reader, or as a student of American literature or Jewish Studies–I hope you’ll ifnd that my book leads you to some interesting discoveries (or, at least, that it allows you to pretend convincingly that you’ve read books when you’ve only read my summaries of them).”

Intrigued by this (perfectly accurate, in my view) description? How about this? The Jewish Publication Society is offering a 40 percent discount through February 28. Go order your copy now!

And Mazel Tov to Josh for writing a guide that’s a “coffee table book” in the best sense–one I am leaving within ready reaching distance so I can pick it up (more often than not) whenever I settle on my sofa.

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After Davos

Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog is where I first found the YouTube clip of the Davos meeting which ended with Turkey’s prime minister storming off the stage (the Arab League’s secretary general seemed about to follow him, before his UN counterpart appeared to restrain him). And for what? What was so untenable?

Was it simply that Shimon Peres, after listening to nearly 40 minutes of criticism that more than once crossed over into abuse and outright lies, responded? Because he told Israel’s side of the story? Because he countered the attacks and vilification of Israel with facts and truths? Because members of the silent audience (perhaps actually listening to what Peres was saying, for once?) applauded when the Israeli finished speaking? Because even the UN secretary general’s facial expression seemed to suggest that Peres might be getting through?

I became increasingly upset and even teary watching this. I watched the whole thing–I did not simply begin 39 minutes in so I could hear Peres exclusively, as Goldberg’s helpful tip would have allowed me. I listened to the whole thing, and I thought Peres was brilliant.

To have the Turkish prime minister saluted as a hero, as I’ve seen not only in reports (like this one) of his return to his country, but also in comments in multiple online locations, makes me despair. If people cannot see the integrity and honesty of Peres’s words–if they cannot see how everyone else, symbolically represented by the three other “statesmen” on the stage–routinely commits sins of distortion, dishonesty, and/or double standards in dealing with Israel, it may never matter how hard Peres (or his country) may continue to seek both security and peace. With “partners” or “brokers” like these to “fix” the situation, who needs enemies?